Liverpool signed Arthur Melo on loan from Juventus on transfer deadline day and their midfield could look very different in 2023
A rollercoaster transfer window for Liverpool is finally over after the Reds completed a deadline day loan swoop for Arthur Melo from Juventus on deadline day.
The Brazil international became Jurgen Klopp’s fourth signing of the summer after belatedly following Darwin Nunez, Fabio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsay in through the entrance door.
The German had looked to complete his latest business early when managing to snap up the aforementioned trio all before a return for pre-season training on July 4.
As a result, having missed out on Aurelien Tchouameni to Real Madrid and been left frustrated by Borussia Dortmund’s ‘not for sale’ stance regarding Jude Bellingham, plans to sign a new midfielder were put on hold until 2023.
Yet injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Curtis Jones, Thiago Alcantara, Naby Keita and Jordan Henderson forced Liverpool’s hand.
While Klopp might have boasted nine senior midfielders when all fit, the majority’s chequered injury past prompted him to move late on for Arthur.
Having waved off Sadio Mane, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi this summer, 2022 had been earmarked as the year the Reds would revamp their attack in the face of ageing stars and expiring contracts.
From their six senior forwards who started last season, Diogo Jota was the only certain of a long-term future at Anfield.
Yet fast forward 12 months and now Roberto Firmino is now the only one whose future remains unclear, with his contract set to expire next summer.
Although, after delivering three goals and three assists in home victories over AFC Bournemouth and Newcastle United in the past week, perhaps the Brazilian will play his way into securing a new deal.
With the 30-year-old Mane out of contract in 2023, Liverpool banked a small profit when letting the wantaway star depart for pastures new at Bayern Munich.
Meanwhile, Origi left for AC Milan on a Bosman transfer while, having found first team opportunities limited at Anfield, the Reds doubled their money when selling Minamino to AS Monaco.
In their place came the 23-year-old Nunez and 20-year-old Carvalho from Benfica and Fulham respectively, while Luis Diaz was signed six months early back in January when Tottenham Hotspur’s own pursuit of the forward prompted an unexpected opening for the Reds.
The trio have all firmly made their presence felt on Merseyside already to ensure a reasonably smooth transition despite the club’s slow start to the season.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Salah ended any uncertainty regarding his own future ahead of his own contract expiring in 2023 by putting pen to paper on the most lucrative deal in Liverpool history earlier this summer, extending his Anfield stay until 2025.
With Jota and Harvey Elliott also handed new deals, Klopp’s attack has successfully been revamped. And that’s even without considering the bright futures that potentially lie in wait for the likes of starlets Kaide Gordon and Bobby Clark.
Incoming sporting director Julian Ward can be reasonably happy with his business in 2022 as a result, having also secured Joe Gomez’s future while bringing in Ramsay as back-up right-back to fill the one hole left in Klopp’s squad as a natural understudy for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Now his attention will turn to 2023 and the long-awaited revamping of midfield.
Given Liverpool’s engine room is predominantly ageing, injury-prone, out of contract or a combination of the three, with Keita the only midfielder on the Reds’ books at peak age, Klopp’s midfield could look very different in 12 months’ time.
And in truth, Ward has potentially already taken the first steps to address that by signing Arthur on loan.
While the Brazilian has a patchy injury record of his own and flattered to deceive at both Barcelona and Juventus, there will still be a hope that Klopp can be the manager to the 26-year-old belatedly live up to his early potential. If he manages that, the option to buy him permanently for €37.5m, payable in two years’ time, could prove to be a snip.
Meanwhile, if Arthur is unable to reignite his fortunes, Liverpool will instead just look elsewhere as they did when declining to sign Ozan Kabak permanently from Schalke two years ago. Bringing in Ibrahima Konate for £36m from RB Leipzig instead, Reds bosses will have no regrets.
From Liverpool’s now 10 current midfield options, it’s hard to see Oxlade-Chamberlain still being at the club next year. Out of contract and again injured, a Bosman exit is likely.
Meanwhile, Klopp has previously spoken of his desire to see Keita sign a new contract ahead of his own expiry next summer, but, given the speculation regarding his future and happiness at the club, along with his latest injury setback, it would not be a surprise if the club’s lost patience with the Guinean and he departed either.
The Reds’ third and final out-of-contract midfielder is vice-captain James Milner. The veteran will be 37 when his latest extension expires next summer, though his leadership, experience, versatility and peerless example make him still a vital member of Klopp’s squad.
Meanwhile, the increase to five substitutions ensures he will enjoy plenty of game-time as a rotation option. Admittedly in the last few years he had perhaps been expected to be starting his final season at Anfield, only to do enough to extend his stay.
Age will inevitably catch up on him at some point, with it remaining to be seen if his performances this year will earn him another new deal.
Yet there remains the possibility he could decide to retire or, at the very least, seek to finish his career elsewhere as more than just a squad player. Time will tell.
As Milner nears the end of his career, captain Henderson is likely to take his place in the squad as trusted elder statesman as the 32-year-old’s game-time starts to dwindle and the next generation emerge in his place.
The same could also be said of Thiago to a lesser extent, with the 31-year-old’s current contract expiring in 2024.
Liverpool will need to replace the ageing pair in the mid-term and fortunately for Klopp he already possesses three talented youngsters in Elliott, Carvalho and Jones, with the likes of Stefan Bajcetic hopeful of following in their footsteps.
The former Fulham duo have shone during the opening weeks of the season, leaving supporters reassured that the Reds’ midfield future is in good hands. In contrast, Jones is playing catch-up after his latest injury as he looks to turn potential into proven quality once and for all.
Elsewhere, Fabinho remains the first name on Klopp’s teamsheet in midfield and is under-contract until 2026. Still only 28, the Brazilian’s place is safe for the foreseeable future.
So, hypothetically, as Liverpool’s midfield revamp steps up next year, the Reds could find themselves waving off Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita and Milner.
If so, the trio would need to be replaced by long-term options whose best years are still ahead of them, while the club’s homegrown quota also needs to be considered with regards to future recruitment.
Such factors are partly why Bellingham tops the club’s wish-list for next year. While Dortmund had no intention of selling the
England international now, having already lost Erling Haaland to Man City, Liverpool do hope to sign the £100m-rated teenager next year.
Should Arthur do enough to join the Reds permanently, they would perhaps need another option to bolster their ranks further.
Links with Brighton & Hove Albion star Moises Caicedo, while his recent social media activity has set Kopites’ tongues wagging. Whether that leads to a move for the Ecuador international next year, only time will tell.
Either way, Klopp and Ward’s eyes will already be on strengthening Liverpool’s midfield next year. Bellingham might be the chief prize as Arthur enjoys his year-long audition, but while the transfer window might only have just closed, the speculation regarding the Reds’ future transfer business is only going to continue.
Liverpool’s potential midfield options in 2023
Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara, Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Arthur Melo, Fabio Carvalho, Stefan Bajcetic, Jude Bellingham, Moises Caicedo.